September 14, 2022

Over the Transom: Remembering William Reynolds

by Stephen Taylor

I see by the papers that Williams Reynolds has died. I was saddened by this, as my wife and I had watched the entirety of The FBI several years ago. As Special Agent Tom Colby, Reynolds was an excellent second banana to Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s Inspector Lewis Erskine; never got to do much but make suggestions and acknowledge orders. "Tom, I’ll need you to check every drugstore between Tallahassee and Miami to see if anyone has bought any large quantities of Dristan in the last 45 days. And I’ll need a report by 4 PM this afternoon." And it was always, "Right, Lew. I’ll get started." Never anything more than a pretty face. Of course, Zimbalist didn’t have a huge acting range either, but the show didn’t call for it. No one cared about their personal lives, so the opportunity for drama for these two just wasn’t there. The drama was all left to the guest stars.

The show was "A QM Production," so it started from a foundation of quality. And it was good. Great music, with an excellent theme. Good casting. Good writing. Always depicted the FBI in a very positive light, with agents and supervisors all pillars of integrity. To this day, my wife and I will be watching a movie or TV series depicting cops, and they’re having real issues tracking down the suspect or making the case, and we’ll say in unison "Better call Lew and Tom," or "Lew and Tom wouldn’t do it that way." And we both agree that Lew and Tom would be mightily disappointed in their employer and what it became. It was always that way, of course, but the Sunday night audiences believed in the righteousness of the FBI, and Lew and Tom exemplified that attitude perfectly.

Reynolds had worked in Hollywood since the early 50’s, but he finally understood that he was never going to be the star, was always going to be the second banana, always the yes man. And he was content with that until the producers fired him at the end of Season Eight; they believed he was too old for the part. He was all of 41. He took the hint and went into real estate law.

With the passing of Reynolds, all the male cast members of The FBI are now gone. Lynn Loring is still with us; she played Lew’s daughter for in the first season. She was in about three episodes, at which point the producers decided that allowing the agents to have a personal life wasn’t necessary, and she vanished without explanation.

William Reynolds died of pneumonia, what those of a certain age call old man’s friend; he was 91. TV  

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